For Students:

In learning to revise style, above all, you need practice. The thing that strikes me most is that, in our culture (especially school or education culture), writing style is downplayed, even denigrated, as unimportant, inconsequential -- ornamental rather than cognitive. Yet if you look at the biggest money-making executives (especially in advertising) in our country, there you will find great stylists. Style IS content: it is a way of thinking clearly and of motivating others to do things. To "prove" this to you, I have taken some ad slogans from the late twentieth-century and put them into the most awful crabbed prose imaginable. Find the slogans -- remember, advertisers made millions coming up with these clear sentences:

EXAMPLE: I’m going to go ahead and try and get us all together so that we can put our heads together to think about how we might act in the face of these particular circumstances that are confronting us at this point in time.

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Let’s meet and discuss what to do.

I. When confronted with making a decision about whether or not one course of action is viable, one should respond to the offer that will have a negative impact on one’s course of actions and behavior without affirming at all that one will in fact do this thing.

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(Ad campaign devised for Nancy Reagan in the "war against drugs.")

 

II. When one sort of people encounters other sorts of people in an arena in which one can see multiple ways in which their actions and behaviors deviate from one another, one in general finds this whole experience to be particularly gratifying.

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(Ad campaign for Arby's about a new sandwich, but clearly articulating values brought to the fore by muliculturalism.)

 

III. When confronted with making a decision about whether to take a course of action that is clearly beneficial in all aspects of health and fitness, one should not hesitate out of considerations for other things that might offer negatives in relation to that course of action but should instead simply proceed with the first-mentioned course of action that is beneficial.

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(Ad campaign for Nike.)

 

IV. There was an event in the kitchen in which a piece of pottery or porcelain crafted to contain beverages was dropped onto some tiles located on the floor and shattered.

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(This is an ordinary sentence, uttered every day by millions of people as they cook dinners or get snacks. Notice that you would never ever speak in such awful crabbed prose: we are in fact naturally good stylists in our native languages -- it took years of education to make our prose so awful and crabbed!!! One way to revise your style is to read a sentence out loud, and then ask yourself, "would I ever say such a thing?" Picture yourself saying it to your best friend. Then write what you would really say. If you wish to do so, you can elevate the style later by making vocabulary adjustments: "His comment was nasty" = "His comment was derogatory.")

 

BACK, or, should you wish to return to the preceding page, the URL from which you originally came to this page, in order to resume your perusal of the narrative units, then you might in fact choose to place your browser on a particular word in this sentence that is highlighted in order to then click on it and thus engage in a backwards motion to the original page.